The Writing Mom

Not long ago, when my daughters still played with Barbies, they began playing on the floor next to my chair.  My fingers slowed on the keyboard as the girls became increasingly involved in an elaborate imaginary scenario. I listened intently to the play-acting that revealed as much about my life as their own.
“I need a break. I’m going to take a walk,” Katie’s Barbie said to Abby‘s.
The girls weren’t aware that the toy they chose that day had been around for as long as their mother. Both Barbie and I turned 50 last year.
I knew the show would continue uninhibited only as long as they thought I wasn’t paying attention, so I turned over some papers on my desk and clipped a few coupons, my ear still attuned to them.
“You have to read this book,” one Barbie gushed to another, and I thought about how integral books have been in our children’s lives. As avid readers, we attend all the library book sales within a 50-mile radius. Our house is full of books. There are bookshelves in every room except the bathroom and kitchen, but that doesn’t stop books from migrating to the table. Books are strewn on end tables and in piles on the floor next to our beds.
Paper is another highly prized commodity in a home where creativity flourishes. Crisp white sheets are purchased by the case, and construction paper of all colors is shelved in a cabinet where notebooks and memo pads are stacked a foot high. My children go through paper like they devour the chips in a Pringles can.
Occasionally I feel sympathy for my family because they have a wife and mother who is such an avid reader and writer.
The reading is bad enough. Meatloaf turns black and peas boil dry in the pan while mommy is engrossed in a book. Woe to the child who dares to interrupt before I’ve turned the last page. They instantly recognize that distant, blank look I give them. Slack-jawed, I pause as their repeated question slowly permeates into my brain and I gradually retreat from the world of the imagined back to reality.
I’ve been like this since childhood, when I spent hours on my bed curled up with my best friends, the stacks of books I lugged home from the library. My two younger sisters and I would each check out four books on Friday, and by Sunday evening we’d be trading because we’d finished our own. During summer breaks from school we read outside on blankets until we got headaches from words that blurred in the sun’s glare.
My love of writing stems from childhood too. Like my girls, I had vivid conversations, but they were mostly in my head. I didn’t realize until I was an adult that not everyone did that, conversing back and forth, playing possible scenarios over and over in their mind. On the long walk to school I formulated elaborate stories that I occasionally played out as doll shows for my younger sisters. In Junior High I started writing down some of these thoughts, transforming them into poetry and essays.
The excitement going on inside my head helped me endure some inevitable boredom of the classroom. While the teacher droned on and on at the front of the room, my eyes would glaze over and I’d let my mind drift. With the radiator popping in the background, I was induced to a coma-like state where my imagination ran wild and free. The only negative comment on my report cards was that I had a tendency to daydream.
I’m still a day-dreamer, doing mundane household chores like laundry or dishes while my muse remains at work. I get up to write at 5:30 a.m., occasionally going out for a lone breakfast to scribble furiously for an hour in front of a steaming cup of coffee. I compose poetry in a notebook while sitting on the closed toilet lid when Abby is in the bathtub. When my children were babies I would pull over to the curb and write after they fell asleep in their car seat. In the darkness of the night, I fumble for the notebook and pen I keep by my bed, to sleepily jot down thoughts that come to me.
So my children live with a mother that has her head in the clouds, whose eyes might be looking right at them while her thoughts are far away. They often have to repeat their questions several times, before asking in frustration. “Are you even listening to me?”
And unbeknownst to them, I am. I’m listening when they least expect it, and aren’t even aware of it, while they play in their own imaginary worlds.

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